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Road Trip! - Fairbanks Is The Gateway To Fun

Published: Apr 20, 2011
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Denali Outdoor Center
Credit: Denali Outdoor Center


Buckle up and hit the road for Arctic adventure based in Fairbanks. A short two-hour drive south of Fairbanks, is Denali National Park and Preserve, one of the last great frontiers for wilderness adventure.

There is a vast array of activities and learning experiences for visitors of all ages in the Park. In fact, visitors almost always want to stay longer because there is so much to see and do in the area. Take a flightseeing trip via plane or helicopter through the mountain passes or around Denali’s peak. Or try river rafting in the nearby Nenana River on a warm afternoon.

Most people visit the park via the Park Service’s buses that travel the lone access road into the park. They provide excellent opportunities to view the 37 species of wildlife that reside in the park. Grizzly and black bears, moose, caribou, wolves, red fox, lynx, wolverine, snowshoe hare, marmots and Dall sheep can all be seen while travelling the Park Road.

Along with wildlife viewing, there are naturalist programs led by park rangers which include walks, hikes, campfire programs and sled dog demonstrations.

Some people like to bus to the end of the park road at Mile 89 and explore the old mining town of Kantishna. Gold was discovered in the Kantishna area beginning in 1903 and within two years, more claims were found and staked.  Once word spread to Fairbanks about the new find, thousands came to the area and mining towns grew overnight. Eureka, which was the original town, is now called Kantishna.

Dalton Highway
Credit: Shutterstock
And then there is the Dalton Highway, a 662-kilometre gravel road that blends Alaska’s past and present on a drive through majestic scenery that includes boreal forest, arctic mountains, rivers, tundra and coastal plain; and passes along the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.

The Dalton Highway begins at the junction at Mile 73.1 of the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks and ends at the community of Deadhorse, just a few miles away from the shores of the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay oil complex. The highway is still referred to by many as the “Haul Road” because of its origin as the rough and tough truck supply route that was built during the construction of the pipeline in the mid-1970s.

So what is it about the Dalton Highway that lures people to point their vehicles north to trek through some of the wildest land in Alaska? For many people the attraction is the awesome scenery along the drive north. Drivers who accept the highway’s challenge are well paid for their efforts, as they get to cross through the majestic Brooks Range and over the mighty Yukon River. That’s not to mention the many miles of spectacular tundra near parks and refuges such as the Yukon Flats Wildlife Refuge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. These areas are home to pristine Arctic environments that are difficult to find anywhere else. Grizzly and black bears, Dall sheep, moose, musk oxen and fox can be seen from the road. The Central Arctic caribou herd can often be seen from the highway on the north side of the Brooks Range in June and July.

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